Claud served with the Third Army and was based in England for six long months in preparation for the liberation of France. He was there at the Normandy landing and still has memories of that day. Claud was older than many of his fellow soldiers. He had enlisted on Aug. 6, 1943, whereas many of his comrades were draftees. He would turn 32 just days after setting foot on that foreign soil.
His wife, Ruth Merritt Barnes, was waiting at home in Woodstock. Their baby boy, who would be their only child, had died in infancy. Claud spent time later in Berlin, waiting for the Russians to invade, and he was there when World War II was finally over. His birth was before World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars. How sad that he would actually be a part of another such conflict.
Claud will be 98 years old on June 15. He was born in 1912 to Claud Barnes Sr. and Emma Rusk Barnes on the family farm a few miles from town on Arnold Mill Road. His father died during a flu epidemic a few years later, and his mother and her three sons moved into town. Claud's teen years were spent in the house that Miss Emma built. It is now occupied by Brenda's House of Flowers.
His brother Miller Barnes and his family settled on property behind the house, and the street serving that area is called Barnesdale Terrace. Miller was an architect with an Atlanta firm for many years, and was married to Bertha McAfee, a granddaughter of Dr. Will Dean. Their descendants still live in the area. Another brother, James Newton, was married to Mildred Bozeman, daughter of Dave Bozeman, a local mercantile merchant.
After the war, Claud worked in warehousing in the Atlanta area, but never moved away from his hometown. For decades after his retirement he was faithful to open up Dean's Store in the mornings for Woodstock's retirees to gather for their daily conversations. This past winter brought an end to that, and he no longer meets with the guys. He set a wonderful example for them and they carry on in his stead.
We miss him terribly, and we are constantly frustrated in efforts to dig up the past without his clear memory. He is still available by phone, though, and his sense of humor is as sharp as ever.
He loves to talk about the good old days in Woodstock, how folks would come in to town on Saturdays and hitch their horses to a hitching post or rail.
He recalls how busy town was, with all different kinds of shops and merchants. He tells of grown men playing a marble game called Tennessee Nines on a vacant lot between the post office (now Hot Dog Heaven) and the Haney-Bozeman store. He has memories of early automobiles and loves to tell about his first car and his first long trip with little cash but lots of determination.
He has enjoyed watching the world go by from his vantage point in one of the old chairs in Dean's Store, and he delights in discussing the different headlines of the day. He laughs at politics, and seldom hesitates to voice an opinion about the economy.
Another special person, long deceased, shares the June 15 birthday date. Linton Dean was born on that date in 1886. That was the year that Coca-Cola was born, and Linton Dean and Coke sort of grew up together. The store is reportedly the first place in this area to sell fountain Coke.
Mr. Dean ran Dean's Store in Woodstock from 1906 until his death in 1981. In the account books at the store, there are several entries of charges made by Claud Barnes, our Claud's father. Mr. Dean and Mr. Barnes were contemporaries. In the next generation, Mr. Barnes' son Miller would marry Mr. Dean's cousin Bertha. Not uncommon in a town the size of Woodstock.
Happy Birthday, Claud. Ninety-eight down, and two or more to go.
Juanita Hughes is the retired manager of the Woodstock Public Library.